Conversations Don’t Need To Be a Conspiracy of Politeness

How to recognize and use the liking gap to your advantage.

Sean Kernan
6 min readJun 11, 2024
Pexels images via Nappy

It’s fascinating when I see social anxiety on full display.

Some people will light up and start laughing at everything you say, power-smiling and telling jokes constantly, seeming remarkably cheerful at your presence.

I know they aren’t like this when alone in their house. Such exuberance would border on madness if continued in perpetuity. In one interaction, a guy got excited and spent 15 minutes telling me about a comedy show he went to. Perhaps he was just excited about the comedy show. But I felt tons of nervous energy emanating from him.

Such interactions speak to our common fears of judgement and likability. But they are disingenuous— and many people don’t realize it.

We aren’t typically malicious in small talk

The odd thing is that, despite hating it, so many of us fall into the trap of small talk, and asking where the other person is from, where they went to school, what they do for fun, and what their favorite movie is. These are all noble and well intended questions. But they are often driven by social anxiety — which is far from a new problem.

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Sean Kernan

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